Do you have a job interview on your schedule? Taking the time to prepare for an interview in advance can help you ace the interview and secure a job offer. There are a number of steps you can take before (and after) the interview to ensure that you make a terrific impression on your potential employer.
The Best Ways to Prepare for an Interview
A study from JDP reports that applicants spend up to seven hours researching the company before their interview. Many candidates (64%) also research their interviewer. Because interviewing is often stressful, 70% of those survey practice their responses out loud, and 62% prepare anecdotes to share with the interviewer.
Here's how to research the job and company, how to practice interview questions and answers, how to dress for the interview, how to follow up after the interview, and more interview preparation tips.
Analyze the Job
An important part of interview preparation is to take the time to analyze the job posting, if you have it. As you review the job description, consider what the company is seeking in a candidate.
Make a list of the skills, knowledge, and professional and personal qualities that are required by the employer and critical for success in the job.
Make a Match
Once you have listed the qualifications for the job, make a list of your assets and match them to the job requirements.
Create a list of your strengths that match the job requirements. These might include skills, qualities, certifications, experiences, professional qualifications, abilities, computer skills, and knowledge bases. You can bring up some of these assets when you explain to the employer why you are an excellent fit for the job.
Also, think of examples from past work experiences that show you have these qualities. This way, if the interviewer asks you to describe a time when you demonstrated a particular skill or ability, you will be ready.
Review the job requirements, your list of strengths, and your examples prior to the interview so that you're prepared to share them during the interview.
This preparation will help you be ready to answer job-specific interview questions and behavioral interview questions designed to determine if you have the knowledge, skills, and qualities needed to perform the job.
Research the Company
Before you attend a job interview, it's important to find out as much as you can about not only the job, but also the company. Company research is a critical part of interview preparation. It will help you prepare to answer interview questions about the company and to ask the interviewer questions about the company. You will also be able to find out whether the company and its culture are a good fit for you.
For a concise understanding of the company, check out the company website, specifically the “About Us” page. Get a sense of how the company compares to other organizations in the same industry by reading articles about the company in industry magazines or websites. You can also check out company reviews from clients, and from current and former employees.
Also, spend time tapping into your network to see if you know someone who can help give you an interview edge over the other candidates.
Take the time to practice answering interview questions you will probably be asked. This will also help calm your nerves because you won't be scrambling for an answer while in the interview hot seat.
Practice interviewing with a friend or family member ahead of time, and it will be much easier when you're actually in a job interview.
Try to conduct the practice interview in the same format as the real interview. For example, if it is a phone interview, ask a friend to call you to practice answering questions over the phone. If it is a panel interview, ask a couple of friends to pretend to be a panel.
If you're interviewing virtually, be sure that you're comfortable with the technology, review common job interview questions and answers, and think about how you will respond, so you are prepared to answer.
Get Your Interview Clothes Ready
Don't wait until the last minute to make sure your interview clothes are ready. Have an interview outfit ready to wear at all times, so you don't have to think about what you're going to wear while you're scrambling to get ready for a job interview.
Regardless of the type of job you're interviewing for, that first impression should be a great one. When dressing for an interview for a professional position, dress accordingly in business attire.
If you're applying for a job in a more casual environment, such as a store or restaurant, it's still important to be neat, tidy, and well-groomed, and to present a positive image to the employer.
It is also important to think about your makeup and accessories when dressing for an interview.
Decide What to Do With Your Hair
How you style your hair for a job interview is almost as important as the interview clothes you wear. After all, the interviewer is going to notice everything about you, including your interview attire, hairstyle, and makeup, and you only have seconds to make a great impression.
Research hairstyles for short, medium, and long hair for inspiration on what to do with your hair when you're interviewing.
What to Bring to a Job Interview
It's important to know what to bring (and what not to bring) to a job interview. Items to bring include a portfolio with extra copies of your resume, a list of references, a list of questions to ask the interviewer, and something to write on and with.
It's also important to know what not to bring, including your cellphone (or at least turn your phone off), a cup of coffee, gum, or anything else beyond yourself and your credentials.
Practice Interview Etiquette
Proper interview etiquette is important. Remember to greet the receptionist, your interviewer, and everyone else you meet politely, pleasantly, and enthusiastically.
During the interview:
- Watch your body language
- Shake hands firmly
- Make eye contact as you articulate your points
- Pay attention
- Be attentive
- Look interested
This is something you can work on in your practice interviews.
There are also specific etiquette tips depending on the type of interview you have, for example, a lunch or dinner interview, a panel interview, a phone interview, or a video interview.
The more positive an impression you make, the better you'll do during the job interview.
If you're interviewing in-person, it's important to know ahead of time where you need to go for your job interview. That way, you'll avoid running late to the interview. Use Google Maps or a similar app to get directions if you're not sure where you are going.
Program your GPS, if you have one, so you can find the best route to the company. Check on parking, if it's likely to be an issue.
If you have the time, it's a good idea to do a practice run a day or two before the interview. That way, you'll be sure about where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Give yourself a few extra minutes and arrive a little early for the interview.
You may also want to confirm the interview time and place, just to be sure you're heading in the right direction.
Listen and Ask Questions
During a job interview, listening is just as important as answering questions. If you're not paying attention, you're not going to be able to give a good response.
It's important to listen to the interviewer, pay attention, and take time, if you need it, to compose an appropriate answer. It's also important to discuss your qualifications in a way that will impress the interviewer.
Also, be ready to engage the interviewer. You want there to be a give and take in the conversation, so you're building a relationship with the interviewer rather than just providing rote responses to questions. Have questions of your own ready to ask the interviewer.
Toward the end of the interview, let the recruiter know that you believe the job is an excellent fit and that you are highly interested.
You'll know if the interview went well if it runs longer than 30 minutes, you discuss salary, or you get an invitation to a second interview.
Follow Up With a Thank You Note
Follow up a job interview with a thank-you note or email reiterating your interest in the job.
Consider your thank-you letter as a follow-up "sales" letter. Restate why you want the job, what your qualifications are, how you might make significant contributions, and so on.
This thank-you letter is also the perfect opportunity to discuss anything of importance that your interviewer neglected to ask or that you neglected to answer as thoroughly, or as well, as you would have liked. Good luck!